Kathmandu: Nepal needs to work towards a constitution that entrenches equality and freedom from state overreach, and its governments should live and die politically on their policies and actions, not through back room deals to share power and black money, says a Canadian journalist.
Describing the anti-India rhetoric in Nepal as a cynical and dangerous eyewash in an article appearing in therecordnepal.com website, Daniel Lak, the Canada correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in Pakistan, India and Nepal, also says Kathmandu needs to invest in the future through education, job creation and health care, treat public finances with respect and respond to challenges with speed and compassion.
He maintains that while landlocked Nepal has the aura of being recognised as a proud, sovereign and never conquered nation, and retains a veneer of being overtly friendly to India and Indians; the anti-India mindset often surfaces at the most unexpected of times.
In his article, Lak recalls an incident where he was once told by a Nepali writer that India has even developed ways to drain Himalayan Rivers, using “some nefarious downstream technology that magically sucks up water as it approaches the border.”
He says that as a reporter of some experience in South Asia, he has seen extremes in sentiment, challenges and opportunities during the Himalayan nation’s evolution from a kingdom to a democratic entity.
Lak says the new Nepal is “a republic, federal, proudly democratic, ostensibly secular, but cautions that it is “manipulators of public opinion – be they Maoist, monarch or democrat” who play this (anti-India) card, and “inevitably and deliberately unleash ugly forces of racism against Madhesis, the long suffering people of the border regions.”
Nepal’s Madhesis, he says, are regarded as second-class citizens with second-tier citizenship.
“The Madhesis are regarded in their own country as Delhi’s fifth columnists, using the revenge of the cradle and the wedding to push India’s land-grabbing agenda. You see this dangerous attitude reflected in the new constitution, unique in the world for its denial of rights to women and others born on the “wrong” side of current prejudice,” Lak says.
Lak says, “All of this anti-India business is cynical and dangerous eyewash. If Nepal’s politicians and patriots really cared about losing sovereignty or land to India, if they really valued independence, would there be an open border? Would they be sanguine about Nepalis going to India for jobs or even ration cards, let alone spouses? Would the local currency be indelibly pegged to the Indian rupee at a rate that hasn’t changed for decades?
He adds, “A nation that doesn’t control its economic, monetary or labor policy, that outsources these vital tools to a neighbouring state, is not independent. It is yoked to a democratic reality next door where politicians must live and die by their economic decisions, in marked contrast to their Nepali counterparts. Indian governments that don’t create jobs and prosperity don’t get re-elected.”
He concludes his article by saying that successive administrations in Nepal maintain the status quo with India simply because “they don’t want to make policy on their own, they don’t want to work hard or even govern.”
He is of the view that the Nepali believes that India will always provide the jobs and economic opportunity that they themselves will not create through policy and political action.
Nepal and its citizens, he says need to be more realistic in reflecting on the meaning of sovereignty.
“If it (independence and sovereignty) means so much to you, please urge your leaders to behave as they say they believe. Exercise real independence and make your own economic and other domestic policy decisions. Abroad, manage relations with giant neighbours and other important countries well. Appoint a proper, non-political diplomatic corps. Base bilateral ties with all countries on respect and mutual self-interest,” he says.
He says that there is a need for Nepal to have the confidence to be inclusive and democratic, and not celebrate the “near-failed state of today that always disappoints its own citizens and the rest of the world.” (ANI with inputs)